TORONTO - Big wins by the Parkdale Hockey Lads, Wheatfield Souldiers and Beau's Beer Hack this past Saturday night have set the stage for a dramatic end to the 2017/18 UUHA Regular Season. With just one game remaining for all eight league teams prior to the playoffs, a mere two points separates 1st place - currently occupied by the Souldiers - and 6th place, where the Hack presently resides.
The Wheatfield Souldiers' ascension to the top spot was the result of a solid night's work from goaltender Sheldon Shurland, and a pair of goals each from team veterans Keven Magura and Brad Sveistrup. Magura's first tally opened the scoring midway through the 1st period, as he combined with linemate Bob Lavery and defenceman Derek Domingos to solve goaltender Joseph Steinman with a hard shot along the ice. Sveistrup made it 2-0 less than three minutes later, pounding in a rebound off of a try by team points leader Eric Toth. Magura struck again partway through the middle frame (with Domingos and John Weier collecting the assists), while Sveistrup's second goal (set up by Scott Pettus) transpired on the power-play at the 5:13 mark of the 3rd period. Dominic Chartier spoiled Shurland's shutout bid with just over two minutes remaining in the game, burying a loose puck in front of the net after an attempt by John Pickernell. With the win, the Souldiers tied the Jokers for most points overall (20), but due to a better win percentage Burton's Boys earn the nod to stand tall, for a fortnight, at least.
Nipping at the heels of the Souldiers and Jokers are the streaking Parkdale Hockey Lads, whose strong goaltending and committed defensive play have seen the team allow just a single goal over the course of their last three games. However, this past Saturday night it was spare goaltender Aaron Brophy (on loan from the Hack) claiming the gilded donut rather than league-leading regular Lads tender, Luis Freitas. Fabian Ruzic, Ryan Kalinka and Fernando Freitas each enjoyed two-point games in the win over a decidedly short-benched Brockton Rockets, who were without team scoring leader Dustin Harris, among other principal elements. Five other Lads picked up points in the game, as well, making the win another team effort for the hot squad that has not lost a contest since Dec. 2, 2017. Currently sitting with the second most points in the league (19), the Lads final regular season game will find them up against the Gas Station Islanders with a shot at finishing atop the standings for the first time since the 2013/14 Regular Season. The Islanders, meanwhile, will close out the Regular Season in 6th place regardless of the outcome of the team's final game.
Like GSI, the Parkdale Porcupines will maintain their current spot in the standings going into the 2018 Playoffs after losing a 3-1 squeaker to the Beau's Beer Hack this past Saturday night. The game remained scoreless through the opening frame, before Lance Moreton got the Beau's Boys on the scoreboard just under three minutes into the 2nd (Chris Barkley assisted). Derek McChesney evened things up early in the 3rd period, though, converting a feed from Daniel Tremblay to solve goaltender Aaron Brophy. But, less than two minutes later, Hack scoring leader Aaron Foster combined with Louis Durand and Stefan Barkley to put the Hack back on top by one. That's the way things stayed until a long clearing pass from Brophy found Chris Barkley who salted things away with an buzzer-beating empty-netter and two seconds remaining on the clock. With the win, the Hack, who will meet the Rockets in their final game of the Regular Season, earned a shot - albeit a long one - at finishing 1st overall in the standings.
The UUHA will experience a break in action this coming Saturday, Feb. 10 due to a tournament at Upper Canada College, but will resume play the following Saturday afternoon at Maple Leaf Gardens. All eight league teams will play their final games of the 2017/18 Regular Season at the Gardens on Feb. 17 beginning at 5:00 pm with the Rockets and Hack, followed by the Lads and GSI at 6:00 pm. The Humiliation will return to action vs. the Souldiers at 7:00 pm, with the evening's slate of matches wrapping up at 8:00 pm when the Jokers face off against the Porcupines.